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British RoyalsFeaturesHistoryPrincess Anne and Family

Anne at 70: birthplace of a princess

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The Princess Royal turns 70 on August 15th 2020. It’s a big birthday for anyone but this milestone is also providing an opportunity to look back and celebrate many of the achievements of a princess who only grows more popular. Anne’s story is a fascinating tale of modern royalty but it began in one of the most traditional royal residences around.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s only daughter was born at Clarence House, London. It had become their family home and Prince Philip was already putting his mark on it with a series of renovations. The arrival of his second child, known at the time of her birth as Princess Anne of Edinburgh, added another chapter to the building’s famous royal history.

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It was built between 1825 and 1827 to the designs of the famous architect, John Nash. He’d been asked to come up with a home fit for a prince as the younger brother of King George IV, William, looked for a London home. The completed home took its name from the dukedom held by William – Clarence.

Clarence House was built adjacent to St. James’ Palace and shares some of its grounds. However, when William became King in 1830, he decided to spend as much time in his new home as in the more traditional St. James’ Palace or the relatively new official royal residence of Buckingham Palace.

William was succeeded in 1837 by his niece, Queen Victoria, and during her reign, the doors of Clarence House turned into a royal merry-go-round. Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, took up residence there and later it became the home of the queen’s second son, Alfred, who also held the title of Duke of Edinburgh. On his death, in 1900, Clarence House became home to his younger brother, Alfred, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.

During Alfred’s tenure, Clarence House underwent one of the most dramatic periods in its history. As World War Two took hold, the building suffered damage in the Blitz. Just a few years before, it had been a brief holding place for books from the School of African and Oriental Studies as preparations were made to take precious materials belonging to London universities to safety as war loomed.

Alfred, Duke of Connaught died in 1942 and Clarence House became a war support system, with St. John Ambulance and the Red Cross setting up headquarters there. Its next royal residents would be Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip who were given the house as a London home following their marriage in 1947. Philip took on the task of bringing Clarence House back to its former glory as well as introducing more modern conveniences to the building.

The unexpected accession of Elizabeth II in February 1952 changed Clarence House once again. As the new Queen and her family moved to Buckingham Palace, the new Queen Mother decamped to Clarence House. The residence became inextricably linked with her and for decades, the famous birthday celebrations that took place for her every August 4th always featured a royal appearance outside its gates.

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On her death, in 2002, the Prince of Wales took on the building and it is now the official residence of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The arrival of Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise at 11.50am on August 15th 1950 remains the only time that Clarence House has welcomed a royal baby. Although Anne only enjoyed the residence as a family home for a few months, it remains an integral part of the royal story being celebrated now as the Princess Royal marks her 70th birthday.

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About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.